Supreme Court: Police generally need warrant to look at cell phone records

Supreme Court: Police generally need warrant to look at cell phone records

BALTIMORE (WBFF) - The Supreme Court ruled Friday police generally will need a warrant in order to look at records that reveal where cell phone users have been.

The 5-4 opinion in Carpenter v. United States was written by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.

Legal expert Warren Alperstein weighed in following the decision.

“In the digital age, what we now have is the Supreme Court recognizing [that], with cell phone technology, you can now track someone’s movement every step of the way. That’s certainly not something the framers of our Constitution could have ever anticipated,” said attorney Warren Alperstein. “Before law enforcement can track an individual’s location using cell phone tower records, the police must appear before a judge and prove probable cause exists.”

Alperstein said the ruling is a significant victory for privacy rights advocates, but an added hoop for law enforcement.

“Any time the government or law enforcement has to jump through hoops, it takes longer to perform an investigation," he said.

Former FBI Agent Tyrone Powers told FOX45 the ruling is significant and could impact investigations.

“It’s not necessarily an obstacle for police, rather requires an adjustment,” said Powers. “I think it’s a good balance between security, crime reduction and the privacy which makes our Constitution and this country unique.”

The ruling does have exceptions. In emergency cases such as bomb threats, active shootings and child abductions, police would not require a warrant, as written in the opinion of the court.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court's four liberals.

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